You Lika The Juice? Commander Savra and Her Incubi

Friday, January 7th – Lord of the Pit is one of Magic’s greatest villain cards, with as much history as Serra Angel and Akroma. So Bennie decided to honor the Lord with his own Commander deck filled with Demons!

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you had a great holiday season and brought in 2011 doing something fun. Me, I had to work my part-time job until 11 pm, but afterwards, I hopped in my van and drove out to Richmond Comix with the intent of playing Commander as the calendar year turned. Instead, everyone ran over to the bar next door to watch the ball drop and have a couple shots, but afterwards, we came back and broke out two games of Commander.

It had been a while since I had a chance to play Commander, and I was seriously jonesing for it. I’d been tinkering with four brand new decks and was eager to give them a try. One deck in particular was a B/G Demon deck with Savra, Queen of Golgari as the commander that had been percolating in the back of my mind for over a year now, ever since I picked up the Divine vs. Demonic Duel Deck and saw the new artwork for the foil Lord of the Pit card.

Lord of the Pit gets no respect nowadays, but for us old timers, he was marquis villain of Magic. I first got hooked on Magic when I bought two starter decks of Unlimited in 1994 and handed one to my friend Scott. I fell in love with huge green creatures when I opened Force of Nature in my starter deck. Scott’s rares weren’t anything particularly memorable, but he had the good fortune of having a rare that a very early Magic collector desperately needed to complete his Unlimited collection. The dude traded Scott well over a dozen cards for it, and Scott jumped to a big early lead in the card collection arms race among our friends. He was the first to have multiple copies of some early superstar cards—Fireball, Serra Angel, Terror—and he also was the first to slam his newly acquired Lord of the Pit onto our table.

That card struck fear around the board. A 7/7 flier was gigantic, and having trample meant that the few flying chump blockers we might’ve been playing barely slowed him down. The removal card of choice for big scary monsters was Terror, something that always seemed to kill my poor Force of Nature before I could attack more than once or twice. Lord of the Pit scoffed at Terror. The only other realistic option was Swords to Plowshares, but nobody played that card because it was terrible—who wants to give your opponent life when the whole point of the game is to reduce their life points to zero?

Typically, you hoped you could survive the 7/7 beatings until someone drew one of the few copies of Wrath of God floating around or got to untap a Nevinyrral’s Disk.

I can remember running around town picking up packs of Revised. Demand was so high that each shop limited purchases to five packs per customer. My friends and I were running all across town hitting each hobby and comic shop nabbing packs and then cracking them open as we drove to the next one. At one point I was driving along, admiring my newly opened cards, and there was a horn honking from the car next to me. I looked over and saw my friend Chris behind the wheel with an evil grin. He held up a Magic card and then slowly turned it around, so I could see what it was.

Lord of the Pit!

Curses, another one we needed to worry about! I threw one hand up in fear to block my view of the card and swerved away into another lane, leaving Chris laughing.

Over time, we started to figure out that having an upkeep cost of sacrificing a creature was a royal pain in the a** for what you were getting, Breeding Pits aside, and once some of us realized that Swords to Plowshares was actually a good removal spell, big, scary Lord of the Pit got played less and less. Eventually, the Lord found his dusty pit in the bottom of the closet and passed on into legend.

Flash forward to the spring of 2009 with the third Duel Deck series, Divine vs. Demonic. Pete Hoefling asked if I could gunsling at one of the Star City events, and I wanted to have one of the duel decks on hand for people who didn’t have any other decks they wanted to play. I was drawn to DvD because of the alternate-art, foil Akroma, Angel of Wrath, which I thought would make a pimpin’ Commander, but when I cracked open the decks and ran across the new foil Lord of the Pit, it took my breath away. That guy was scary! That guy was due for a comeback. It was then I decided at some point, I was going to make a Commander deck featuring a good number of Demons, and whenever I was sifting through my collection looking for Commander cards and ran across a potential inclusion for the Demon deck, I’d add it to the Lord of the Pit pile.

Since then, there were two other mondo combos I ran across that I made a mental note to include in a Commander deck, and they both just so happened to fit snugly into a Demon deck featuring black and green cards. One featured new Demon on the block from Magic 2010 – Xathrid Demon, alongside Lord of Extinction as sacrificial fodder. Sheldon Menery lovingly described just how much life the entire table loses given how ridiculously huge the Lord gets in multiplayer. I flipped over how cool it was that this new Demon turned its drawback upkeep into a weapon, and boy—what a weapon!

The other combo popped up last October
Sam Black decided to dabble in Commander,
bringing his decidedly more competitive mind to bear on the format. Perilous Forays and Bloodghast broke my mind and had me slapping myself that I hadn’t thought of that before. For a while, I was thinking about making the deck mono-black or possibly black and red, but Sam’s combo (plus Sheldon’s) finally pushed me to G/B. I briefly debated going three colors (because Dragon Appeasement is

) but ultimately decided to keep it two colors for now.

There aren’t too many G/B commanders to consider, and it didn’t take long for me to decide on Savra, Queen of the Golgari, who likes the sacrificial themes that a Demon deck is going to have in it, not to mention the fact that I had a pimpin’ foil Savra to use!

With my general—correction,

now—decided, I began to sculpt the elephant 99 other cards out of my considerably larger stack of possibilities. Here’s what I decided on:

Meet the Demon Boyfriends

Blood Speaker, Halo Hunter; Kagemaro, First to Suffer, Xathrid Demon, Demonic Hordes, Stronghold Overseer, Lord of the Pit, Archdemon of Unx, Minion of Leshrac, Liege of the Pit, Pestilence Demon

While I toyed with the idea of mono-black Demons and running lots of the lower-cost Demons from Kamigawa, they too often demanded I squeeze in a bunch of Ogre minions into my deck. Eventually, a lot of Demons got cut, especially given how expensive many of them are. Given that I wanted this to be a “Demon deck,” Blood Speaker was helpful in making sure that I actually had a steady supply of Demons to play out. Halo Hunter is cheap, hits hard, has decent evasion and—who knows? Maybe someone will have an Angel in play that doesn’t have protection from Demons. Kagemaro is also cheap and a tournament-caliber card that’s a perfect fit. Minion of Leshrac and Demonic Hordes provide some pinpoint land destruction for Maze of Ith, Gaea’s Cradle, and such. Pestilence Demon is a great way to mop up token decks.

Abyssal Snacks

Nether Traitor, Bloodghast, Reassembling Skeletons, Pawn of Ulamog, Ashen Ghoul, Krovikan Horror, Cauldron of Souls, Genesis, Lord of Extinction, Paleoloth, Archdemon of Unx

We’ve come a long way since Breeding Pit for feeding Demons! Nearly all of these are no-brainers, with Archdemon of Unx being particularly nice about giving back something to sacrifice when he eats his non-Zombie snack. If I can get Pawn of Ulamog out when I go nuts with Bloodghast and Perilous Forays,
ay caramba!

Paleoloth is a card I’ve been gaining a lot of respect for in Commander lately—consider his ability triggers when the right-size creature enters the battlefield, whether from your hand or from some other shenanigans such as Cauldron of Souls. Also consider you’re not limited to returning a creature with five or more power—you can get back any creature, such as a Pawn of Ulamog, Eternal Witness, or Big Game Hunter. He seems like a perfect fit in this deck.

Juicing It Up

I can’t believe you played that card!

Eric Brown, last Friday night

When filling out the rest of the deck, I decided that I’d add in some high-powered cards to the mix. After all, in the grand scheme of things, a “Demon deck” theme is relatively low-powered in Commander, and in honor of the bada** Lord of the Pit artwork, I wanted the deck to be more scary than silly. Sol Ring, Skullclamp, Mimic Vat, Greater Good, Vedalken Orrery, and Seedborn Muse all made the cut. Hey, at least I didn’t put in Survival of the Fittest!

For its inaugural run, I smashed a three-player Commander game last Friday night. My opponents ran Teysa, Orzhov Scion and Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief as their commanders. Yeah, it was a pretty evil table! As I was kicking everyone’s a** with Seedborn Muse, I kept insisting it was the Demons that were crushing everyone, but they knew that it was the green spirit that propelled my deck into the next level. Eric Brown gave me a lot of grief for playing Seedborn Muse considering my stance on the card (
see The Case Against
Seedborn Muse
) and even
snapped a picture and posted it

as proof of my gross hypocrisy. Yes, I do still think Seedborn Muse is unfair and bad for the format, and I wrote what I considered to be a compelling argument for banning it. Since I’m not on the Rules Committee and haven’t made headway with my arguments, I’ve decided to go another route—to use and abuse Seedborn Muse myself so much that others will have to concede my point. Maybe the trail of death and destruction in Seedborn Muse’s wake will speak louder than my words.

A side note: Seedborn Muse + Helm of Possession don’t exactly have the best synergy around. Nevertheless, I did use the two cards to destroy my opponent’s threat creatures or force them to self-sacrifice to further solidify board position. Death came from attacking Eric and Griff, one with a Nether Traitor equipped with Grafted Exoskeleton for three poison counters and the other with Minion of Leshrac targeted with Tainted Strike for five poison counters (the Minion had come back with persist earlier). I then cast Pestilence Demon, moved the Exoskeleton to him and passed the turn to Griff. He had no creatures to play that could survive an Infected Pestilence, so during his end step, I activated the Demon for five and killed off Eric with poison, then on my turn, swung in with the smaller but just big enough Demon to kill off Griff. Who needs Skithiryx anyway?

Below is the entire decklist. If you have any questions about my choices, hit me up in the forums and I’ll be happy to answer them.

1 Savra, Queen of the Golgari
1 Maze of Ith
1 Sol Ring
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Skullclamp
1 Sylvok Lifestaff
1 Ivory Tower
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Tainted Strike
1 Golgari Signet
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Nether Traitor
1 Bloodghast
1 Reassembling Skeletons
1 Vampire Hexmage
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Sylvan Library
1 Culling Dais
1 Nim Deathmantle
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Mimic Vat
1 Coalition Relic
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Crystal Ball
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Pernicious Deed
1 Big Game Hunter
1 Bone Shredder
1 Pawn of Ulamog
1 Sword of Light and Shadow
1 Loxodon Warhammer
1 Eternal Witness
1 Blood Speaker
1 Ashen Ghoul
1 Krovikan Horror
1 Greater Good
1 Helm of Possession
1 Grafted Exoskeleton
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Vedalken Orrery
1 Damnation
1 Halo Hunter
1 Kagemaro, First to Suffer
1 Indrik Stomphowler
1 Shriekmaw
1 Hellfire
1 Perilous Forays
1 Cauldron of Souls
1 Venser’s Journal
1 Seedborn Muse
1 Genesis
1 Lord of Extinction
1 Black Market
1 Xathrid Demon
1 Demonic Hordes
1 Stronghold Overseer
1 Dark Hatchling
1 Paleoloth
1 Lord of the Pit
1 Archdemon of Unx
1 Minion of Leshrac
1 Liege of the Pits
1 Pestilence Demon
1 Exsanguinate
1 Volrath’s Stronghold
1 Svogthos, the Restless Tomb
1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Jund Panorama
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Vesuva
1 Deserted Temple
1 Gaea’s Cradle
1 Cabal Coffers
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Tainted Wood
1 Golgari Rot Farm
1 Gilt-Leaf Palace
1 Bayou
3 Forest
17 Swamp

Join me next week when I review the best EDH/Commander cards printed in 2010 as we prepare ourselves for some amazing goodies in 2011! What was your favorite card for EDH/Commander in 2010? Fill in the poll below; I’ll be curious to see how my list stacks up against your favorites!

Poll: What was your favorite EDH/Commander card that was released in 2010?

Take care,

starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

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, I check it often so feel free to send me feedback, ideas, and random thoughts on Magic and life.

New to Commander? Be sure to check out my Commander Primer,
part 1,

part 2,

part 3.

My current Commander decks:
Savra, Queen of the Golgothi (Demons)
Vorosh, the Hunter (proliferaTION)
Uril the Miststalker (my “more competitive” deck)
Konda, Lord of Eiganjo (under construction)